SHARON WITT TALKS BULLYING
DJ: I’m being joined by the lovely Sharon Witt, our very own child whisperer. You may know her from Ken and Lucy Show early in the morning, she joins them very frequently, and joining me now in the studio to talk about bullying. Thank you for coming in Sharon.
SHARON WITT: Thanks Jess, great to be here and such an important topic.
DJ1: It is so important and it’s something that gets overruled really easy, but for those not quite sure, can you define bullying for us?
SHARON WITT: Yeah absolutely. Look, bullying is, the important point to make here is that it is a repeated thing. So, if someone just said something nasty to someone, quite often in society we just wanna say “ah, that’s bullying”. But it is actually repeated abuse. It could be both verbal, physical and of course, non-verbal including text messages, email exchanges and we’re going to cyber bullying later. It’s also excluding, like deliberately excluding someone from something continually. And it’s also continued harmful and hurtful gossip and those sorts of things. So, it’s, I guess it’s behaviors that continually are directed towards someone to make them feel little and feel not worthwhile.
DJ1: Not pleasant behavior at all. For bullying, I guess, you may’ve seen in the news there was that poor girl who posted a video up and then commit suicide because of bullying and we’ve seen it time and time again kids get overwhelmed with the environment that they’re in. What are some signs that we can look out for if our child is being bullied?
SHARON WITT: Yeah absolutely. There’s some, look there’s a lot of warning signs that all cannot be well in your child’s life. And, look, it may be bullying or might be attributed to other sort of problems at school, but some of the warning signs to look, look out for with your child is if they’re not wanting to go to school, avoiding school, or avoiding particular interests and activities that they normally really enjoy and just not wanting to do them. If you know they’re not wanting to go to school often, there could be some social issues there. So, it’s good to look into that. Another sign is missing belongings, interestingly enough. If your child’s at school, so if their lunchbox continually goes missing or clothing items and something that seems a bit not quite right. Before you blame them, just check that someone isn’t taking things from them. Being fearful, anxious, not wanting to eat, suffering in poor health and often you’ll notice change in sleeping habits. So, with someone I know that they actually wanted to sleep more because they were starting to feel really down about what was happening at school. So, it could be wanting to go to bed early or sleeping a lot more than they normally would. And just, also receiving suspicious or, yeah, just suspicious emails and text messages and kind a bit more private about that and just avoiding school in general, or university or work. Because lets remember our child might be, you know, attending university or type degree. So, I think it’s just looking at signs that things aren’t like they are normally, when things don’t seem all as should be with your child. It’s good to start investigating that. It could just be a bad day, but if it goes on for a couple of weeks, you really need to start investigating what’s going on.
DJ: And before we mention the signs to look out for, but if we do spot those signs, what can we do if our child is being bullied?
SHARON WITT: Yeah. It’s a tricky one because a lot of bullying goes unidentified, I guess, particularly with cyber bullying which we’ll touch on in a minute. But with cyber bullying, often kids don’t wanna tell their parents they’ve been bullied online because they are automatically gonna think “Okay, I’m gonna lose my online privileges if I say that I’m being bullied. ” So, a lot of kids are really worried about speaking up. So, I always encourage parents to remind your child that if they are being bullied, particularly online, reassure them they are not going to necessarily lose their online privileges. Just say “we will deal with it together, you won’t lose your online privileges.” Cause this, you know, really just, it’s about blaming your child then and it’s not really their fault they’re being bullied. So, some of the things that parents can do is reassure their child that they’re not to blame because if they’re being bullied, often they might be made to feel like they’ve done something wrong to deserve that. So, reassure your child that actually that they’re not to blame. Seek help if it’s happening within the school yard, I encourage parents to go up and see your child’s class teacher, their coordinator or if you are not getting anywhere, go to the principal and continue to speak up and continue to seek assistance from the school if it’s happening at school until you are satisfied.
DJ: What if you can flip it the other way? What if your child is actually the bully?
SHARON WITT: Yeah, absolutely. And this is, this can be the case, you know. We’re talking here about people being bullied but there are gonna be parents out who are listening now, tonight, and their child might be the bully. You might not even identify that your child is actually bully, but some of the signs, let’s go back a bit and see what are the some of the signs that your child might be a bully and it could be that you see that your child repeatedly teases, intimidates or makes fun of the same person relentlessly. They might appear to be repeatedly wanting to be in control and dominating others, particularly in the social environment, or they might not show any compassion or empathy for somebody else who is being bullied. And, they might also repeatedly exclude or ignore the same child. So, notice I’m saying repeatedly, it’s when this behavior is ongoing and it might actually be about pointing that out to your child. They might not actually realizing what they’re doing constitutes being a bully and some kids are actually quite shocked to hear that their behaviors are actually identified as bullying. So, what can you do as a parent? Well, first of all, if your child actually is a bully, try and stay calm, try not to play the blame game, “That it’s my fault as a parent”, “Where have I gone wrong?”, “Who’s to blame here.” Learn as much as you can about what your child’s behavior, what’s happening at school, or whether it’s outside of school. Try and identify what those behaviors are. It’s important to find ways to develop their social and emotional skills and specially conflict resolution. We need to teach them really good ways of dealing with conflict and reminding our children that they’re not going to love everybody, their not gonna like everybody that they come into contact with but this is a like skill. We still need to be able to work in an environment where we respect one another and that’s really important. And teaching our kids about respecting people even when we don’t agree with them, even when they do the things that we don’t like, we still need to show respect and consideration.
DJ: It’s not just children who deal with bullying, adults have to deal with this as well. In the workplace in particular, people deal with that especially when we have things like depression, it’s not something to be ignored as well as adults.
SHARON WITT: Absolutely. It’s a great point you make there Jess because bullying, actually, is just, adult are just as capable of employing bullying tactics just as any other child can. And it actually does happen a lot in the workplace, in university. In fact, in 2005, I found one statistic, with work covering the ACT, estimated that the dollar cost of bullying is between $6 Million and $13 Million a year. That’s in work as actually not, you know, not being able to attend work. The Australian Human Rights Commission believes that this cost is actually even higher, their estimate is between $6 Billion and $36 Billion. So we are talking that about bullying has have a huge impact on the workplace, not to mention, I mean we’re just talking finance, financial here. But, not to mention the role of bullying in people suffering depression and anxiety because of repeated, repeated behaviors in the workforce. From adults, recent American findings found that the stereotype of the bully boss was actually still very real with 72% of bullies are being attributed to being the boss. So, there’s a lot of bosses out there, you know, employing some bullying tactics. So, there are a lot of people out there in the workplace who may be listening and they’re being bullied and I think we really need to bring light to this issue because we, if you think about bullying being with young kids and at school, but it is a big issue in the workplace with adults and you know, unfortunately there are people that still, you know, suffer depression and even commit suicide over repeated bullying and repeated, just really insensitive behavior.
DJ: Yeah. And if you are going through something like that at the moment, if you’re struggling, you can call the Light FM Care line now at 95832273, that’s 9583CARE. With cyber bullying, it seems to be the biggest thing at the moment because you can be anonymous.
SHARON WITT: Absolutely.
DJ: And you can say whatever you want to anyone you want almost. You have access to celebrities and all sorts of things like Twitter or Facebook. It’s just, it’s kinda nuts this new realm of bullying and it’s obviously affecting more and more people worldwide.
SHARON WITT: Absolutely. When we saw with them shallow doors and the celebrities some weeks back who is being repeatedly, repeatedly bullied through Twitter. And, it has, is having a huge impact in our society. Never before have, have people been able to be connected 24/7. I mean, we are living in a digital age where people can and do, do some awful things online. Cyber bullying is huge, I’m seeing a lot more cases of that amongst teenagers and young people, and adults as well. But, cyber bullying is repeated abuse, it’s, it’s posting pictures that could be derogatory and it’s derogatory marks about someone in the public form, and not only public but also that you can send instant text messages, in inbox messages and it is quite prevalent, can be just as effective as if it’s face-to-face. And many people, as you’ve said before, do hide behind the virtual anonymity and it’s a real epidemic at the moment.
DJ: Really is. And what would you say if you are being bullied, cyber bullying, what is the way to combat that? Because we seem to go “well, there’s nothing I can do, I don’t really know who they are.”
SHARON WITT: And the thing is, you often can feel like you’re not even safe in your own home and that’s one of the terrible things about cyber bullying is it actually happens in the often the four walls of your own home where you’d expect to be feeling the safest and you know, you’re being targeted in your own home. Now, the simple reason, the simple answer would be just to say turn off your computer but many people find it very difficult to disengage with social media and not check their emails. The first thing would be report and block the person. If they can get to you, block them, delete them and also don’t respond. I think that’s the difficult thing. People want to respond if they’re being, you know, targeted and abused. The important thing is to, just to not respond, delete and block the person, report them. And if it’s continual and it’s threatening, I would say report it, take it to the police because everyone has the right to feel safe.
DJ: Definitely. And a lot of internet trolls, that’s kind of the terminology we use to describe them these days, are just out for a reaction.
SHARON WITT: Absolutely.
DJ: Nothing more.
SHARON WITT: They feed on that attention and they feed on the notoriety that, you know, of cause someone so much pain. And I think you know, we live in a society where many people, you know, are just broken and they don’t need to have all that extra pain inflicted on them. And some people who just have nothing better issues than just, you know, abuse people and say nasty, nasty messages and, yeah it’s really sad.
DJ: Well thank you so much Sharon Witt for joining me tonight to talk about this and taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to come in.
SHARON WITT: My pleasure. Thanks for having me Jess.
DJ: And if there is something that we’ve talked about or you’ve got questions you just need somebody to talk to, perhaps something that you’ve been through, the Light FM Care line is open right now.